The Greenbriar Picture Shows blog takes a fascinating look at the Fleischer Superman cartoons and how they were received when they debuted in the early 1940s. Turns out most exhibitors, critics, and perhaps even the general public, didn’t really know what to make of the character:
Negative comments far outweighed praise throughout 1942 trades I canvassed, and the mainstream press, when it could be bothered, took out hatchets as well. Artistically, Superman shorts are the movie cartoon at its worst. Superman looks and acts like a wooden puppet. So do all his playmates. There is little that his creators—the old Fleischer Studios (now Famous Studios, Inc.) at Miami, Fla.—can do to improve their hero—even King Disney can’t animate human beings satisfactorily, said TIME magazine regarding Volcano in July 1942. There is never any suspense, since Superman always wins, no matter what happens. But his idolators (of all ages) seem satisfied to see him flex his muscles. By December of that year, the novelty of Superman seemed spent. These cartoons are getting to be just cartoons.
(via Cartoon Brew)